Electoral Disobedience Builds People Power!

“NO CORPORATE MONEY” Movement Poised to Replace Corporate Controlled Candidates.

My campaign for State Controller is growing and joining in solidarity with other no-corporate-money candidates who are also stepping up and running for office, like author/activist Luis Rodriguez for Governor, author Ellen Brown for Treasurer, David Curtis for Secretary of State, and many more. Many others are sharing our vision, giving their time and talent, and supporting us with financial contributions! 

As a State Controller who takes no corporate money, I will stand up to the Wall Street bankers — like Green Party mayor Gayle McLaughlin in Richmond, CA — and insist they gamble with their own money from now on. With a State Bank for California, we can create a bank that will partner with local banks and credit unions, and provide good loans to homeowners, students, and small businesses. We will keep the interest low, and keep it in the state, to invest in California, not Wall Street.

In the primary election on June 3, 2014 we have a very real chance to upset the status quo and create a more equal state for ALL Californians.

The way we will do this is by committing “Electoral Disobedience” to build people power by voting only for a new wave of “No Corporate Money” candidates who answer to the people, not corporations. California’s new “top two” primary has lots of problems but one big possibility: any voter can vote for any candidate regardless of political party. Be sure to cast your vote, but not for corporate-funded candidates. If they win, you won’t.

In sharp contrast to the corporate candidates, we don’t need millions. With several big donations of $1,000 or more, many smaller donations of $100 or more, and a whole bunch of encouraging $5 donations, we’ll be on our way to building that critical mass. We are grateful for ALL donations! Together we can spread the word about solutions, and stand up to those that continue to put profit before humanity and the planet.

Your financial contribution helps my campaign and lets people know that their voices and their votes can make a huge difference in the June 3 primary election.

If you would like to donate to my campaign, please click HERE.
https://laurawells.nationbuilder.com/donate

Like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/laurawellscalifornia?ref=hl

Follow me on Twitter  @WellsController

Thank you for all you do!

Laura Wells for Controller 2014
http://www.laurawells.org/

How do we stop fake No Corporate Money candidates?

A supporter of my California Controller 2014 campaign recently sent me an email that boiled down to the question, “How do we stop fake No Corporate Money candidates?” Here is my answer, followed by the question as he put it in his email.

A working draft of the pledge — and we will finalize it in concert with other allies —  addresses PACs:

I, ________________, oppose the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the 1% and their corporations. I pledge to the people of California that as a candidate and an elected official, I will accept money from individual people and public funding only and no corporate money in any form, such as lobbyists, developers, and Political Action Committees (PACs).

From the No Corporate Money (NCM) campaign perspective…
The campaign plans to ensure that listed NCM candidates adhere to the spirit of the pledge. There are a growing number of websites that provide information about campaign contributions. Those websites are great, and what the NCM Campaign intends to do is inspire candidates and voters to ACT on that information, not just KNOW it.  

From the corporate perspective…
Corporations do not want to spread the word that no-corporate-money candidates even exist, and so they certainly will not finance  NCM campaigns. The NCM name is so blatant that corporations know it undermines their power.

From the candidate perspective…
It’s perfect that last night Eduardo Martinez was at an NCM gathering. He is running for Richmond City Council and one of the stalwarts of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, the organization that has made such a difference to the city of Richmond, CA — as well as the nation and even internationally. Eduardo said now that Gayle McLaughlin (registered Green Party) will be termed out as mayor, other mayoral candidates have come to the RPA for endorsement. When RPA tells them they have to pledge they will take no corporate money the candidates say they don’t understand why they would have to do such a pledge. RPA’s answer is along the lines of, “The fact that you don’t understand is exactly why you won’t get our endorsement.”

I hope this helps. My vision is that at some point it will seem obvious to people. “Well, does the candidate take corporate money? If they do, I know they won’t represent me. If they win, I won’t win.” And people will find out who’s running with no corporate money, and vote for them. And if there is no one, they will run and/or encourage others to run. That’s what the No Corporate Money Campaign is all about.

NOTES

The following contains the questions and information as emailed to me. Your comments and feedback are also welcome!

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission + Speechnow.org v. FEC,  
Corporations can promote (with money) any candidate any amount as long as they don’t coordinate with the candidate . . . or can they?   “However, it is legal for candidates and Super PAC managers to discuss campaign strategy and tactics through the media”  

Therefore, if “No Corporate Money” looked like a killer issue for the candidate, he/she can claim that they don’t accept corporate donations while being supported with big corporate PAC money.    In other words the public won’t know who is getting elected by corporate money and therefore who not to vote for.   

I don’t expect the media to help the public figure out who is corporate sponsored as most media is corporate.   

I suspect you know all of this but I didn’t see Citizens United or Super Pacs mentioned at:
http://www.nocorporatemoneycampaign.org/

Have you an answer to the Super Pac issue?  I hope so, as I don’t.   

Super PACs    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Pac#Super_PACs

<SNIP> Super PACs, officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” may not make contributions to candidate campaigns or parties, but may engage in unlimited political spending independently of the campaigns. Unlike traditional PACs, they can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size.[19]
Super PACs were made possible by two judicial decisions: the aforementioned Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and, two months later, Speechnow.org v. FEC, where the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that PACs that did not make contributions to candidates, parties, or other PACs could accept unlimited contributions from individuals, unions, and corporations (both for profit and not-for-profit) for the purpose of making independent expenditures. The result of the Citizens United and SpeechNow.org decisions was the rise in 2010 of a new type of political action committee, popularly dubbed the “super PAC”
<SNIP>

Seven months, and the website is up!

The website www.laurawells.org is up, and you can find it here! We are getting everything lined up for the all-important primary on June 3, 2014.

The campaign and the website are growing, and we hope you will join us. Browse the website; listen to an interview on KPFA about Goldman Sachs and who’s accepting their money; read the blog; contact us with your comments and the ways you would like to join us.

If you are able to make a donation to our “No Corporate Money” campaign, we’re delighted to tell you that in addition to sending checks to the P.O. Box, there is now a way to donate online. Whether you can afford to give big contributions or small, they all count, and they are all extremely encouraging!

Thank you for reading this countdown message, and feel free to forward to friends and family. I hope you enjoy the website, and it will be wonderful to hear from you.

Another world is possible, and California is a great place to start.

Eight months, and rolling up our sleeves

[Written on October 3, 2013]

My daughter Natalia and I “rolled up our sleeves” this afternoon and designed campaign buttons showing people power over money power, with a person triumphing over a moneybag, and the words “Vote June 3, 2014” at the bottom. It’s so much fun to be impressed by what your child can do! By the way, check out her band, https://www.facebook.com/SocialStudies101

Last week I filled out the first questionnaire for the June 3, 2014 primary – exactly eight months from today. There was a question about campaign goals. My goal is this: I want us to win! So, who are we?

We are a huge group of people – we are

  • 89% of Americans who believe there is too much corporate money in politics,
  • the Green Party, whose candidates never take corporate money,
  • other candidates who also refuse corporate money,
  • the new No Corporate Money Campaign that is creating a cool video, to raise thousands of dollars to put up a fabulous website to build a critical mass of candidates who will take no corporate money and voters who will vote for them. Look again at the example of Richmond to see what happens when candidates who don’t take corporate and developer money win. You might want to sign up for their inspiring newsletter; see the left hand column of http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/

The trick about California is that we really can start to turn this state around. That’s why it’s so important that good, un-bought people get themselves on the ballot, as soon as possible. Maybe you will consider running, or encourage others to run.

I believe that this destructive corporate-controlled system will crack, and that its unraveling after the crack will proceed fairly rapidly. Why? Because it has happened before. In Latin America people who had not voted – especially the young and the impoverished – started voting, and replaced the old guard. The new governments  championed their people and not the 1% of the world. (And yes, the U.S. government and corporate media are mad – that’s why they lie about Latin America so much!)

I will wrap this up with a big THANK YOU. Last month I said you could mail a check to surprise us when we check the P.O. Box and a bunch of people did! Again, thank you.

Your offers of help are also very encouraging, and a dream I have is to work closely with one or more people who will help our campaign make the best possible use of all the help that is offered! If that person is you or someone you can recommend, let me know as soon as you possibly can!

Another world is possible.

Laura Wells for Controller 2014
P.O. Box 10181
Oakland, CA 94610
510-225-4005
laurawells2014@gmail.com

BLOG WEBSITE: http://laurawellssolutions.com/  is still my best website
WEBSITE:  laurawells.org – not updated yet, but we’ll get there!
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/laurawellscontroller (thanks to Edy in LA)
TWITTER: @wellscontroller

U.S. income gap widest on record – that’s what happens when we don’t Tax The Rich!

News stories have hit this week with titles like, “U.S. income gap widest on record.” The stories mention UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, and should point out a strong correlation he found during his research:

If you lower the income tax rates on the highest income brackets,

inequality of income is increased.

If you raise those rates, inequality is reduced.

A blog post with more information and graphs is here,

http://laurawellssolutions.com/2012/12/05/tax-the-rich-to-reduce-the-disparity/

At the end of Eisenhower’s presidency in 1960, the rate on the highest tax brackets was 91%. As we know, the rich could still get richer even with those high tax rates, just not obscenely richer. Now the titanic Dems and Reps haggle over a top rate of 35% and 39.6%. Why wouldn’t CEOs start shifting more wages to their own pockets when they get to keep most of it? It’s too much temptation. When they only kept 9% of the highest portion, greed was not encouraged.

The 0.1% use their resources to keep us thinking all taxes hurt all of us. Not true.

In addition to increasing taxes on the super-rich, we can also reduce government spending, and lower taxes on the rest of us. Which government spending should we reduce first? Let’s start with the dumbest expense: high interest paid to Wall Street banks. When we vote people into office who are not sold out to big banks and other corporations, we can create publicly-owned banks that partner with local banks and credit unions, and provide good loans to students, home owners, and community businesses. And we can fund our own projects without high interest tacked on top. See blog http://laurawellssolutions.com/category/public-banking-state-bank/

 

Nine months, to a new birth

In nine months we have a chance for a new birth! Here’s a vision that keeps appearing to me, despite all the bad news I hear.

We will begin to crack this system, by doing the things the 1% – really the 0.01% – do not want us to do.

The simple fact is that we vastly outnumber them and if we stop buying the candidates they have already bought, we will win. Then we will have people in government who will champion – not squash – the great ideas we have, for schools, for justice, for housing, the environment, jobs, health.

Replace is the word we’ve left behind in politics, and it’s the action we need to take. We cannot influence or lobby our elected officials to make them do the fair and sensible things that we regular people want them to do. The 1% is sitting pretty, having convinced us – step by step since the Great Depression of the 1930s – that we have only three choices in elections: vote Democrat, vote Republican, or do not vote at all. Their campaign contributions control the titanic Democratic and Republican parties, and their corrupt practices make us sick of the whole system.

But on June 3, 2014, in nine months, we will have on the ballot candidates who pledge to take no corporate money, and we will have voters who declare their intention to vote in the primary, and to vote for candidates who take no corporate money. Why? Because corporate money in the campaign is the best way to distinguish between people who will be on our side after the election, and people who will toe the line of the 1%.

My fondest wish is that many young people of the occupy and student movements run for office. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been at meetings and events where I’ve seen brilliant facilitators and organizers. They seem to understand that the issues are all connected, and so are all the people. That’s my favorite part of the vision.

We do have the power.

 

CONTACT INFORMATION

Step by step, with help from other people, the elements of my campaign are are coming together.

DONATE?

Yes! If you are able, donations are gratefully accepted. They are very much needed in a practical way for everything from travel expenses to literature and communications, not to mention costly fees to Sacramento. And they are tremendously encouraging, enabling me to reach out and spread the word as much as possible. The two ways to contribute financially are:
(1) Laura Wells for Controller account with PayPal, laurawells2014@gmail.com
(2) Mail a check to surprise us when we check the P.O. Box!

Laura Wells for Controller 2014
P.O. Box 10181
Oakland, CA 94610
510-225-4005
laurawells2014@gmail.com

Ten months, and counting

[Written on August 3, 2013]

On June 3, 2014 – in exactly 10 months – we will have a chance in the California primary to vote for No Corporate Money candidates. It’s a new primary system and any voter can vote for any candidate for state and local office regardless of political party.

How many times have you heard candidates say one thing and then get into office and do something else altogether? Then they run again – and expect our votes – on the basis that at least they’re better than the candidate from the other corporate-funded Titanic Party! Why don’t they walk their talk when they get elected? It’s corporate money, simple as that. Taking corporate campaign money is the first line a candidate crosses, and after that, they have to toe the line.

The freedom candidates have when they do not take corporate money!

I attended a march and rally today in Richmond, California, an East Bay city of about 100,000 that has Chevron refineries. Richmond has run slates of candidates who pledge to take no corporate money. My favorite election in Richmond was in 2010 when Chevron, the biggest corporation in California, put a million dollars into three races, and lost, lost, and lost.

After being in Richmond today, I’m inspired all over again!

I am running for State Controller. We need to follow the money if we want to know what’s gone wrong with our schools, jobs, justice, health, and homes! Joining me will be other candidates pledging to take no corporate money.

I’m urging everyone to use all the power you have to stop corporate control of our government. Ironically the 1% knows better than anyone how powerful the 99% is. Use all the power you have, and vote for real people, who do not take corporate money!

That’s it for now. I’m trying to keep it as short as possible, and trying a new email system. I hope to send you a monthly update – maybe on the 3rd of every month – counting down to our chance to elect people into office who will champion the great solutions people are coming up with!

My best website currently is my blog at laurawellssolutions.com (there’s a little “follow” to click in the lower right corner). My Green Governor website http://www.laurawells.org will get updated one of these months! My contact information is below. If you are able to help financially, please mail your check to my P.O. Box for now, and I expect to make it possible to donate online soon.

Thank you for all you do! And good luck to all of us.

Laura Wells for Controller 2014
P.O. Box 10181
Oakland, CA 94610
510-225-4005

laurawellssolutions.com
laurawells2014@gmail.com

California Budget Blues: Jerry Brown’s May Revise

It’s hard to believe what’s going on in Sacramento.

  • More Revenue. We just got more revenue than the state of California expected – this should lighten up the austerity plans, no?
  • More Billionaires. The economy must be improving. We have more billionaires than ever in California. Forbes came out with their annual list and California has 96 billionaires, up from 94 last year, and 85 the year before that. The billionaires’ total wealth is $360 billion, up 16% from last year. A small portion of that could make up for past budget cuts that affected everyone in one way or another. For years taxes on the wealthy have been lowered, and their wealth has gone up – that’s how it works. (See http://laurawellssolutions.com/2012/12/05/tax-the-rich-to-reduce-the-disparity/)
  • More Taxes from the Rich? Maybe revenue increased because the super-rich paid a bit more in taxes, eh? Could have been even more if Jerry Brown had gone with the real Millionaires Tax, before he watered it down for Prop 30, and added regressive sales tax. People preferred the real Millionaires Tax. (See the behind-the-scenes story in http://laurawellssolutions.com/2013/01/01/no-corporate-money-vs-jerry-brown/)
  • More Prisoners. By a lot, we have more people incarcerated in California than in any country in the world. Many should be in treatment, not jail, and many are in private out-of-state prisons. Jerry Brown recently filed a last minute, court-ordered plan to reduce the state’s prison population, and did not include a single sentencing reform.
  • Less Healthcare; More Health Insurance. Why did Sacramento pass single-payer healthcare when Republican Schwarzenegger was Governor and not pass it now, when Democrat Jerry Brown is Governor? Obamacare will not provide the kind of healthcare provided by all other wealthy, industrialized countries, but it will subsidize health insurance corporations.

Why is all this – and more – happening when the Democratic Party holds every single statewide office and now has 2/3 majorities in both houses of the legislature? Isn’t it the political party that is supposed to be the “people’s party”?

Worse than I Thought

I have to confess, it’s worse than I thought it would be, and I of all people should have known better. After all, I ran against Jerry Brown in 2010, as the Green Party candidate for Governor.

In the race for Governor in 2010, I decided to focus on two signature economic proposals rather than focus on a “laundry list” – a list that includes such vital issues as education, environment, health, housing, jobs, justice, and peace. I made that decision because I expected the huge, corporate-controlled media would give very little attention to candidates who are not from the huge, corporate-controlled political parties. (I admit that at times I refer to them as Titanic Parties. Let’s face it, they’re huge; they’re heading straight for the iceberg; their captains are not turning aside; and passengers came on board because they thought the Titanic would take them where they wanted to go, and on the way they could party!)

I focused primarily on two proposals because I wanted to draw as much attention as I could to the California economy and budget. If the money’s off, it’s all off. The budget needs to be handled well if we are to have hope for all the other areas of life that matter to us.

Two Signature Economic Proposals

My first proposal was and still is to create a State Bank for California that will partner with community banks and credit unions; ensure good loans for residents, small business, and students; and enable us to stop throwing public money away in interest. The State Bank and other public banks will invest in California, not Wall Street. (See also my blog http://laurawellssolutions.com/category/public-banking-state-bank/ and see http://www.publicbankinginstitute.org/.)

My second proposal is summarized in my valentine to Prop 13, “Honey, I love you, but you’ve got to change!” I proposed that we keep the good (keep people in their homes, including our seniors) and fix the bad. The bad has two parts: the property tax imbalance, that now favors huge corporations, and the 2/3 super-majority required to raise revenue, that now favors the richest of the rich individuals and corporations. That last bad part – about the super-majorities – was where I was naïve.

Toward Solutions: Champions in the Halls of Government

I am no longer focused on Prop 13′s super-majority rules. Even with 2/3 majorities politicians in Sacramento are bent on developing excuses rather than solutions. We are focused on replacing our elected officials.

We have all seen candidates who say one thing and then get into office and do something else altogether. Then they run again – and expect our votes – on the grounds that at least they’re better than the candidate from the other huge political party.

Corporate money is a way to distinguish between those candidates who will be on the side of the 1% and candidates who will champion the causes of the 99% that elected them. The No Corporate Money Campaign is strategizing to show how candidates and voters – who are not controlled by corporations – can win.

We are aligned with efforts to change the laws governing our democracy, but not waiting for that. We need champions in Sacramento and in other halls of our government in order to change the laws. Champions of people’s causes have been elected with great results as to the environment, banking, education, equality and so on, in places as diverse as Iceland, Germany, Quebec, many Latin American countries, and Richmond, California. We can continue that trend.

There are solutions. When we use our individual efforts and social movements to promote solutions, we need to elect people into the government who will help us move them forward, not stand in our way and block our solutions.

That’s why a group of community and political activists are focusing our efforts on creating a powerful No Corporate Money Campaign. The Campaign consists of two simple but powerful elements that work together. Candidates sign a pledge to take no corporate money, and voters declare our intention to vote for candidates who take no corporate money.

And now, I’m going to post this blog and get back to work on one piece of that campaign, a book with the newly revised working title, Signs of Hope: You, Corporations and Government. 

Thanks for all you do, and for staying with it!

Ten Things I Learned from Hugo Chávez

I like to gather signs of hope that things really can change for the better in a major way. With that in mind, I keep the website venezuelanalysis.com as my home page. On the afternoon of March 5, 2013, I had to catch my breath when I saw the headline, “President Hugo Chávez has Died.” Almost ten years ago, inspired by the documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, I started learning as much as I could about Venezuela and Hugo Chávez. I participated in “reality tours” and political delegations to show solidarity, and to bring the lessons back home. Here are some things I learned.

1. Keep Smiling. Hugo Chávez’ charisma and popularity was based on his speaking to – and acting on – the needs of the people, who could see he was one of them. Also, Chávez had a huge smile he gave generously, lifting spirits in the struggle. Sure, we can’t smile all the time, and Hugo Chávez didn’t either, but I learned that when we do smile, we give a renewable source of energy that can light up the place.

2. 1% Lies are Enormous. The 1%, along with their military-industrial-media complex, uses the approach “by any lies necessary” to counter the power of good examples that can inspire hope and action in the rest of us. As a result of these enormous lies, Americans who know almost nothing about current affairs in Latin America believe the lie that Hugo Chávez was a dictator. In fact, Chávez was a democratically elected president, elected by a wide margin after running as an outsider in Venezuela’s fixed two-party system. His first acts as president were to wipe out illiteracy, establish healthcare clinics in the poorest barrios, and create a brand new constitution based on citizen input and participatory democracy. I wish our democratically elected presidents and governors would strive to empower us with better education, healthcare for all, and new rules to improve our democracy.

3. Attacks by the 1% can Strengthen the 99%. Whether you call it the backfire effect or political jujitsu, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Venezuela is this: the force the opposition uses against us, the people, can be used as a catalyst that helps us increase our power. Here are three examples during Chávez’ presidency. The 2002 military coup was turned away not by Chávez himself – he was in captivity on an island – but by a mass protest of people in the capital city of Caracas. That military coup backfired and so the 1% tried an economic coup later that year, with an oil company lockout. Although nationalized almost 30 years earlier, the oil company had benefited only the ruling oligarchy while the vast majority of people lived in poverty. In a stunning backfire despite great odds, workers and the Chávez government learned to run the oil company, and in effect, the old 1% managers fired themselves and the people got control. The third attempt was in 2004 when the 1% used the recall powers in the new constitution. In this electoral battle, Chávez supporters organized barrios and pueblos across the nation to get out the “NO!” vote, and the recall was defeated. As a result, the 1% became weaker; and the 99% became stronger and more organized. Backfire!

4. Learn from History. Hugo Chávez taught history in the military, and in the process learned what had worked and what had not worked in people’s struggles in Latin America and beyond. He  studied nonviolent movements by reading Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Gandhi, and he was influenced by liberation theology. A new approach to land redistribution was something I learned about firsthand on the Day of Indigenous Resistance (formerly known as Columbus Day). On that day, our Global Exchange reality tour reached a remote area of Venezuela via three different aircraft: presidential jet (without the president on board), prop plane, and helicopter. Chávez arrived shortly after we did, and was greeted by hundreds of campesinos and our group of a dozen “estadounidenses” (U.S. Americans). It was apparent that he had learned from history: if you simply redistribute land in order to solve the vast inequality of wealth, people might not be able to hang onto the land. Instead, Venezuela’s new plans included these elements: distribute unused government land first before unused private land; give farmers access to credit, equipment, and agricultural training to lay the groundwork for success; prioritize farming cooperatives to help ensure stability over time; and grant temporary use of land leading to permanent ownership after the farmers succeeded in making the land productive. On the return trip to Caracas, Chávez was aboard the presidential jet. There he was, big as life, beaming at everyone.

5. Empower your People, and your Peers, Connect with Everyone. Chávez said that to get people out of poverty, “Give them power.” He also knew it was important to empower peers – heads-of-state across the continent and even across the world. He learned from history that a single country, attempting to strengthen its own sovereignty at the expense of the interests of a super-power, is in much better position when in partnership with other countries also standing strong. Chávez worked diligently with other South and Central American presidents to fulfill liberator Simon Bolivar’s dream of a united Latin America. They built alliances for trade, finance, telecommunications, culture, and governance. Chávez’ approach seemed to be: connect with everyone, even those who oppose you, because there may be a time when their rarely given support could help your mission. When Colombia acted in ways that harmed the region, Chávez initiated meetings to address the matter, and to maintain a working relationship for future times when Colombia would stand with Latin America. Chávez also connected with other heads-of-state around the world, including those in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and he was willing to meet with American presidents from Clinton, to Bush, to Obama.

6. Missions, not Wars. Ten years ago if anyone had told me I would have great enthusiasm for a place where these elements combined forces: government, military, religion, and the oil industry, I would have said, “No way!” But there I was, participating in political delegations to Venezuela as often as my budget would allow. The Bolivarian “missions” were programs focused on literacy, healthcare, food, housing, agriculture, cooperatives, and much more. It struck me that the word “mission” made sense, since it was used in all of those arenas: government, military, industry, and religion. I thought, the U.S. doesn’t use “mission” like that, and so what word do we use? Then I realized, it’s “war” – the war on drugs, war on poverty, war on terror. After the Venezuelan oligarchy running the national oil company essentially fired themselves, those earnings were available to benefit all of Venezuela, and the power of the missions increased. The strength of Chávez’ presidency, whether in the streets or in foreign policy, was based on the Bolivarian missions, not on military might.

7. Ideas not Ideology. The goal of the Bolivarian Revolution is to create “socialism of the 21st century.” Chávez and the people at the base (“el base” is the Spanish term for grassroots) aimed to implement that through participatory democracy, operating in what they referred to as “el proceso” rather than by a fixed, top-down plan laid out for the next 5 or 10 years. Significantly, the oil industry had already been nationalized in 1976 but the profits benefited very few Venezuelans. When Chávez became president, his administration did not immediately implement programs to redistribute land and nationalize the means of production across the board. Instead, Venezuela moved steadily toward nationalizing industries when it became possible; toward expropriating abandoned factories for workers to start up production; and toward creating cooperatives – while prioritizing industries essential for all Venezuelans and helping the new entities to succeed by giving them government contracts.

8. Paso a Paso, Step by Step, It All Contributes. In political delegations with the Task Force on the Americas, other participants and I often met with activists who had been organizing for 40 years or more. We asked them how on earth they managed to keep going all that time when the system seemed irretrievably locked into a two-party system with an entrenched oligarchy. The activists smiled and shrugged, “Hay que luchar, paso a paso” – “You have to struggle, step by step.” During all my travels to see firsthand what was happening in Latin America, I gained a new appreciation of history and how you’re never sure what’s going to happen, but when you are committed you can keep moving forward. It becomes clear that everything we’re doing now will be of use once there’s a crack in the seemingly impenetrable system. That crack happened in Venezuela; Chávez was elected; and the country began to turn away from concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the 1%, toward a sharing of wealth and power in the hands of the 99%.

9. Sometimes Loudmouths are Necessary. If someone had given me the decision about whether or not Chávez should refer to President Bush as the “devil” in a United Nations speech, I probably would have said “no,” but I would have been wrong. I’ll never forget that particular U.N. speech, or the news clip I saw online of a Fox TV reporter saying, “I don’t know what was more disturbing, his blasphemous remarks…. or the amount of applause he got when he finished.” Considering the problems Latin America faced as the “backyard” of the United States, the biggest economic and military super-power the world has ever known, I could see the need to have someone courageous enough to roar, so that others could at least peep.

10. You Don’t have to be Perfect. There were any number of things Chavez said and actions he tried that could be criticized as going too far or not far enough, and yet he never stopped moving toward his mission of a better world. Of the many things Hugo Chávez tried in his life, the one that catapulted him into folk hero status in his country in 1992 was his 90-second speech in which he took responsibility for a military coup attempt that had failed, “por ahora” – for now. The next day the words “por ahora” were written on walls all over the place. Later Hugo Chávez would spend time with Fidel Castro, and together they would agree that the way to go in Latin America was no longer armed revolution. Venezuela is changing through a combination of elements: a strong social movement with people taking to the streets; an electoral revolution including former non-voters like the young and the impoverished taking to the voting booths; local movements building healthier communities; and an unwavering commitment to create a better world.

Jerry Brown’s Budget: We Can Do Much Better!

An Important Preamble

We as the human species really have one job on our to-do list, one responsibility, and that is to take care of the next generation. This means not just our kids or kids of people close to us, but the kids of the species. Everything else is secondary. Fortunately, we can live happy and meaningful lives while we’re handling this basic responsibility. As a matter of fact, that might be the only way we’ll be happy! As current times show, when we aren’t doing such a great job taking care of the next generation, we are likely to be leading lives filled with fear, resentment, excuses, and scapegoating.

We in California have power in this quest to set things up well for future generations across the planet. We have been looked up to in the past, not just for Hollywood but also for our education system. There is no reason our school system should be deteriorating. The current budget proposal is hailed by its author Governor Brown as turning a corner toward balanced budgets and better funding for education, but before we say, “Hail to the chief!” let’s take a moment to think about what we really want in California, and see how far we are from having that.

“We want him to win big!”

When I ran as the Green Party candidate for Governor in 2010, Jerry Brown won, easily, by 13 points. A friend asked his fellow voters, since there was no worry about Brown winning, would they please vote Green if that’s where their values really were – social justice, nonviolence, healthy environment, grassroots democracy and candidates who walk their talk by taking no corporate money. People responded, “We know Brown is going to win, but we want him to win big!” Same thing happened with Obama in 2012. People said, “We know Obama is going to win California, but we want him to win the popular vote in the country.”

“Who Are Our Champions?”

OK, so Brown won in 2010 and Obama won in 2012. They won, and won big, and yet why aren’t we happy with them? It reminds me of a plaintive question from the back of the room at a California Budget Project conference, “Who are our champions?” Apparently our “winners” are not our “champions.” They do not champion our causes. Why?

Pressure and Support

There is a basic approach in negotiating an agreement, whether it’s among peers, between parent and child, or between voters and candidates. Don’t “support” them by giving them everything they want and then expect they’ll do what you want! (Can I get a “Duh!”)

Elected officials have lots of pressures to deal with, and if voters vote for them no matter what they do (excusing their past behavior by saying at least they’re better than the other one), the elected officials would bow not to the voters, but to the pressures of the corporations who fund their political parties and campaigns. The people who decide how to allocate their candidate-purchasing funds do not say, “Oh well, you tried!” They will lower your pay. With voters, our elected officials just devise, issue by issue, a way to tell us what a great job they’re doing for us! They will remind us that, “Politics is the art of the possible,” and imply that, unfortunately, what we want and need for the future generations and ourselves is just not possible in this political climate. “This is the best that could possibly have been done!”

Jerry Brown vs. California

This leads us to Jerry “Look at what a great job I’m doing!” Brown. He is without question the most powerful political figure in California, so much so that it’s hard to figure who comes in second. And although he has responded to pressure, he had the power to do much more than he did. Last year he brought down the real Millionaires Tax and then began using the same name for his watered-down Prop 30. That was the focus of my blog “No Corporate Money vs. Jerry Brown” http://laurawellssolutions.com/2013/01/01/no-corporate-money-vs-jerry-brown/

The annual Forbes list of the richest people in America should come out in the next few months, and we’ll see if the progression continues. In 2011 the state had 85 billionaires and I put that on a sign and carried it to rallies until the new list came out in 2012 and I had to revise the sign to read 94 billionaires. The economy was improving, for a few! (See also blog  http://laurawellssolutions.com/2012/12/05/tax-the-rich-to-reduce-the-disparity/)

That’s where the money is – in the hands of the super-rich and their corporations. Jerry Brown is calling it a success that he allowed a tiny chip to be taken out of the huge cuts that he and his predecessor Schwarzenegger presided over during the past several years. There are lots of taxes that could be implemented; lots of proposals are in the pipeline; voters just gave the Jerry Brown and his Titanic party super-majorities in both houses of the legislature; and so what will our Gatekeeper-in-Chief allow to progress?

What can we do about it?

We have lots of power, and nobody knows that better than the 1%. There’s a lot we can do, and one of them is to join with the No Corporate Money campaign that you will hear more about – from grassroots sources not mainstream media – in the coming months. When we have 1 or 2 or a majority in our governmental bodies, No Corporate Money candidates will champion regular people and our next generation without having to toe the line and bow to pressure from corporations. Which reminds me of a third blog for you to check out, http://laurawellssolutions.com/2012/10/19/no-corporate-money-campaign/

There are many other things that we can do, and that we are doing. We won’t stop strategizing for change, organizing, using the power we already have, using our wallets according to our values, taking to the streets, taking to the voting booth, whatever it takes to take care of the next generation, and ourselves in the process. And we know we can lead happy and meaningful lives too.

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